Diego López Calvin > January 2011 – Featured Pinhole (lensless) Photographer

Friday, January 7, 2011

Diego López Calvin is an artist currently living in Madrid, Spain and he is the January and first pinhole photographer feature on chriskeeney.com in the year 2011. It is a pleasure and a honor to be able to have hime part of this ongoing series.

Self-portrait of photographer
Diego López Calvin

Artist Statement

"II started using pinhole cameras in the mid 80's when I was studying photography at Complutense University in Madrid, but it was not until late 1999 that I took the first half-year pictures in Poland, with the idea of photographing the apparent changes of position of the sun in the sky. This was the beginning of solarigraphy.

Due to my profession as a still photographer I had worked during the summer of 1999 with Spanish director Julio Medem on his film Sex and Lucia. Here the Sun is a major character, and during the shoot the director shared with me a number of questions about the Sun, light and the film’s assembly time. These questions stayed with me all throughout the shoot as we filmed over that summer in the Mediterranean island of Formentera. That winter I travelled to Poland at the invitation of  my colleague and photographer Slavo Decyk and we were able to discuss the differences in light between the skies of Poland and Spain.

The origin of the "solarigrafía" has to do with the fact that the Sun apparently changes position in the sky for every latitude on the planet, something that can be quantitatively represented by means of photographs taken with pinhole (lensless) cameras. This technique relies on the research of the photography pioneers who worked with paper negatives, but now it incorporates digital image scanning, thus avoiding chemical processes such as developing and fixing. Due to the photosensitivity of photographic paper, solarigrafias are latent images and the same light that creates them can make them disappear.

This is the basis of a project called "SOLARIS"  that Slavo Decyk, Pawel Kula and myself  launched in Poland during the years 2000-02.They were students at the  F.A. Academy of Poznan and through Eric Renner’s book Pinhole Photography from Historic Technique to Digital Application we were all familiar with the work of P. Gioli, D. Stroobant and other interesting lensless photographers. The W3 was being developed at that time, and we read interviews with Tim Berners on his ideas about the Internet. These things helped us design a project involving different people on Earth who would share the experience and results of six months’ simultaneous sun exposure, between the winter and summer solstices, in order to compare the paths of the sun.

A dozen photographers participated in the open project over four cycles of six months each and we were able to contrast the different positions of the Sun in different countries of the hemisphere, ranging from Northern Europe to the African Equator in Uganda. When the SOLARIS project ended, we stayed in touch, carrying out new projects, giving solarigraphy lectures and leading solar workshops in many places. Solarigrafía gave me an entirely different approach to photography, which complemented my day job as a still photographer or freelance photojournalist.
When you make solarigrafia you are practicing the very basic scales of the medium (exposure time, aperture and  ISO), but working outside the standards established by the manufacturer. This is an exciting path of experimentation for a curious photography enthusiast. The principle is something as simple and old as the physical change of some substances that react to light. Photosensitive black and white paper has this feature, blackening and changing hue as we pluck it from the opaque black bag that contains it. With its low sensitivity (between 3 and 9 asa, depending on the manufacturer), it is perfect for use in extremely long exposures, where we load it in lensless cameras with diaphragms as small as f: 186. Once you decide the frame and the place to fix the camera, you need to be aware that things may change a lot over six months, so it is advisable to take some photographs in order to document the place where the camera was fastened, and the way to arrive there and retrieve it.

This technique is slow and imprecise — that’s why I find it interesting, because there are so many external factors that can influence how the image is formed. As it is outdoors photography, the weather is one of those factors; therefore I like to talk about “ripening pictures” — the cameras are harvested in the same way ripe fruit is, pulling gently at the stem that joins it to the tree. And upon opening, some of them still contain dust from the environment, mixed with silver halids. All my childhood was spent in a small town in the Spanish central plateau and before becoming a photographer I had spent many years looking after plants and cattle, so it was not difficult to establish an open relationship between photography and agriculture. In fact, how do these cameras see? For me, they see as I imagine trees or rocks in the landscape would see if they had eyes. Also, as they are placed outdoors, in small groups, like herds of bulls fixed to the stone or like flocks of birds hanging from bridges and eaves, they bring to mind the idea of shepherding cameras. Furthermore, I think a camera installation is an act of expression at the same time as a search for new images, having to do with a “drifting” vital attitude, where the product itself is less important than the journey that brings you to it. I have made thousands of solarigraphies, and every new one is as exciting as the others, not to speak of the pleasure of going out on “latafaris” with my friends.

It has been 10 years and solarigrafia has become popular thanks to Tarja Trygg’s University of Helsinki page “Global Map of Solarigraphy”, and my own website. There exist nowadays many working groups, artists, photographers and amateur astronomers making solarigrafías."

CK - In an age where everything seems to be going a mile a minute, it's refreshing to come across a photographic processes like solargraphy that is still alive and doing well. I especially like how Diego compares his creative pinhole process to planting something and waiting for it to "ripen". I find his patience and dedication to the art form to be admirable. And to see the slow passing of time as the sun works is way past the pinhole day after to day to be fascinating. Thanks Diego for sharing your words and images in this series - I wish you all the best in 2011. -Chris

Title: Barrio del Pilar Madrid, 2008 - (solarigraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Calle 30, Madrid, 2006 - (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Faro de Mesa Roldan I - (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Faro de Mesa Roldan II- (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Faro de Mesa Roldan III- (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Grand Via, Madrid 2010 - (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: London Eye, London, 2008 - (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Monument, London 2009- (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: The Gherkin, London 2009 - (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Telescopio en Calar Alto, Almeria 2008- (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Title: Toro en Hornrubia Cuenca, 2010 - (solargraphy pinhole photo by Diego Lopez Calvin
Red Bull energy drink can made into homemade pinhole (lensless) camera- (photo by Diego Lopez Calvin)
Cámara con camouflaje en el Molino de los Cantos. Espejo de Tera, Soria 2006 - (photo of hidden pinhole camera in tree by Diego Lopez Calvin)